April 6, 2001

Commentary

The British Are Here, The British Are Here!

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

In Arkansas, newspaper columnist Paul Greenberg was fired by the "liberal" station management from his local Public Broadcasting radio station for doing "conservative" commentaries. I call this the "Greenberg problem."

The "Greenberg problem"—lack of balance—on Public Radio goes even deeper than anyone can imagine. I have discovered that Public Radio is intolerant of anything not leftist, and is, locally, perhaps the most elitist, almost exclusively non-Hispanic White institution in the county. One would think that "liberals" might be pro-Hispanic, or at least sympathetic, when it comes to presentation and staffing, especially in the middle of 11-million California Hispanics, but, they are probably not. There are parts of the country where this is acceptable, but not in Southern California.

With 90% of the country's fast growing Hispanic population in metropolitan areas like ours, one might expect some diversity in Public Radio broadcasting that might appeal to hundreds of thousands of Hispanics, even slightly. That is not the case in San Diego County.

The local PBS station is KPBS-FM, owned by San Diego State University and functions with a federal broadcast license issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). San Diego State is a California State University campus owned and operated by the State of California, by the people of California. The FCC-granted license belongs to the people of the United States, not to the University, the State or the station staff.

So, given that we own this station and use the publicly owned airwaves to broadcast, what do "we" broadcast? "We" broadcast over half-a-million (525,600) minutes of programming during the calendar year. How many of those minutes are Hispanic programming minutes or Hispanic anchored minutes? Answer: Exactly 1,560 minutes for the entire year. That is 0.2968 percent, less than a third of one percent.

Hispanic affairs, Hispanic views, Hispanic news broadcasters interest me. However, I don't expect, nor desire quotas, but I do expect, a piece of the pie. The pie, you see, includes us, and is paid for by us, the taxpayers and we Hispanics are almost one in three KPBS market taxpaying people.

So, less than a third of one percent of KPBS-FM's programming is Hispanic-oriented. How many Hispanics work on-air at KPBS-FM? There are twenty on-air staff people at KPBS-FM. Graciela Sevilla, a recent hire, is the only Hispanic on-air at KPBS-FM. She's a reporter (with a Master's Degree), not an anchor.

KPBS's web site provides the facts. One on-air Hispanic out of twenty staff and less than one third of one percent Hispanic oriented programming on a station owned by all Californians, including 11-million California Hispanics. Additionally, listeners have their KPBS listening hours disrupted four weeks a year by a barrage of begging for donations. Donors innocently support a station with staff and content diversity that doesn't remotely resemble local taxpayers. The station might as well be in Nashua, New Hampshire.

There is infinitesimal Hispanic presence at KPBS-FM.-this is bad. Politically, the "Greenberg problem" runs deep at KPBS—this is worse.

If KPBS-FM were the county's only station, few would know President George W. Bush was elected and fewer would know any Hispanics live in the County, or attend the station's parent, San Diego State University, but they could listen to the British Broadcasting Company every day, Monday through Friday.

Contreras can be reached at sdraoul@pacbell.net.

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